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Sheriff Brave Stays Out of Jail — For Now

Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave (D) is not going to jail for allegedly lying and stealing while on bail for allegedly lying and stealing.

At least, not yet.

Brave, 38, was set to appear in Rockingham Superior Court on Tuesday to face a bail hearing. Prosecutors say he lied about his income and violated his bail by moving out of state. But the sheriff still had no defense lawyer when he appeared in court Tuesday. Judge Daniel St. Hilaire pushed the bail hearing back to Dec. 12 to give Brave time to finalize his representation.

Brave said he is in the process of hiring attorney Leif Becker.

Prosecutors say Brave moved to Massachusetts days after he was ordered to stay in New Hampshire as part of the bail conditions in his theft and perjury case. Brave illegally collected more than $10,000 in salary for his elected sheriff’s position, according to prosecutors. 

Elected officials must reside in the state where they serve. Brave isn’t clocking in as sheriff since being charged, but he is collecting his salary while on administrative leave. 

Brave also lied about the money he got for selling his Dover home, prosecutors say. Brave claimed he didn’t clear enough money from the $1.5 million sale to pay for defense lawyers as planned. Debts and divorce expenses took most of the money, he said. 

But prosecutors say instead of paying a retainer to a law firm as he claimed he would, Brave bought a 1968 Porsche and prepaid a year’s worth of rent, about $50,000, on an apartment in Massachusetts soon after the sale went through.

Last month, St. Hilaire revoked the public defender assigned to Brave since Brave allegedly lied about being unable to pay for his own lawyer.

Brave was charged with theft and perjury last summer for allegedly stealing $19,000 in county money to fund his extramarital affairs with multiple girlfriends.

Court: Brave Tried To Hide $1.5 Million To Score Free Lawyer

Caught not reporting $1.5 million in revenue, Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave is now under court order to pay for his own defense lawyer.

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire canceled Brave’s free public defender Tuesday after prosecutors requested an emergency hearing. According to court records, prosecutors say Brave lied on his financial disclosure forms when he first applied for a public defender, leaving proceeds from the sale of his Dover home off his list of assets.

Brave cried poverty when he was approved for a public defender on Oct. 26, though he had already sold the 17 Schooner Drive home on Sept. 29. Brave did not list revenue from the home sale on his application for a public defender. The home sold for $1.5 million.

Brave was arraigned on charges he stole taxpayer money to support his hook-up lifestyle on Sept. 28. At that hearing, Brave represented himself, saying he could not afford a lawyer. Brave said he planned to hire Shaheen and Gordon to represent him once the house sale went through. 

Brave is facing the possibility of 63 years in prison and blames his current legal predicament on political vendettas and racism. He claimed Strafford County Commissioners George Maglaras, Robert Watson, and Deanna Rollo made up the allegations as part of a political maneuver. Maglaras, Watson, and Rollo are all elected Democrats. Brave’s also accused Maglaras of racism. According to Brave, Maglaras called him a “token.”

County Administrator Ray Bowers went to County Attorney Tom Velardi last spring after finding suspicious purchases Brave made with his county-issued credit card, according to records made public in the investigation. Verladi referred the matter to New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella’s office for investigation.

According to the affidavit written by New Hampshire Attorney General Investigator Allison Vachon, Brave repeatedly used his position and public money to fund his relationships with various paramours. There were plane trips, hotel stays, meals, and even a family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge, though it is not clear if the Great Wolf Lodge weekend was with his family or the family of a woman he was dating. 

County officials had been concerned about Brave’s spending outpacing his budget for months when an audit found Brave had “maxed out” his county credit card. According to Vachon’s affidavit, the audit also turned up suspicious receipts for an August 2022 trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

While Brave would give Bowers and, later, investigators multiple rationales for the Florida trip, it turned out to be an excursion with female Strafford County Sheriff employee Freezenia Veras.

Brave had hired a woman, Veras, to a new position he created for her in March 2022. Veras’ title as chief of support services/public information officer didn’t come with a job description, but it did come with a $ 79,000-a-year salary. As a result, Veras was getting more in her paycheck than certified deputies in Strafford County- those qualified to engage in law enforcement. Brave would go on to have Veras sworn in as a special deputy, giving her the power to arrest people.

Veras would eventually tell Vachon she and Brave went to Florida to research her new job with other law enforcement agencies. Veras told investigators Brave claimed the meetings were canceled at the last minute, and she spent her time shopping and hanging out by the hotel pool, the affidavit stated.

Brave allegedly used taxpayer funds for trips with multiple women and then repeatedly lied about it, the affidavit stated. He is charged with eight felonies, including theft, perjury, and falsifying evidence for stealing at least $19,000 from the county.

Brave remains Strafford County Sheriff, at least until the next election. He is currently on paid leave from his job.

AG: Dem Sheriff Brave Used Taxpayer Money for Multiple Affairs

According to New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella, Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave used taxpayer money to subsidize his love life and lied about it to a grand jury.

“The decision to charge an elected constitutional officer was not made lightly,” Formella said. “However, no person is above the law, and the evidence in this case required action. It is my hope that the public will be reassured that there will be equal justice under the law for every person in this state – including public officials.”

Brave denied any wrongdoing Thursday morning when he turned himself in to state police. He has blamed his downfall on county politics, not his multiple affairs.

“I will go in civilian clothing, no weapons, and bring my $40 for the bail commissioner,” Brave told Foster’s Daily Democrat prior to his arrest. “I expect I will be photographed and fingerprinted. What I want is to get ahead of this situation and to get a trial date.

“I will fight this all the way. If I had done anything wrong, I’d own it. But I, 100 percent, did nothing wrong.”

Brave also blamed racism by county officials for the investigation that resulted in criminal charges. Formella said Thursday saw no evidence that racism played a part.

“That is unsubstantiated,” Formella said.

Brave allegedly stole $19,000 from Strafford County taxpayers through a scheme in which he submitted fake receipts for expenses related to his affairs, according to Formella. He also repeatedly lied about his actions, at one point roping U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) into his fabrications.

He is charged with one count of theft by deception, two counts of falsifying physical evidence, and five counts of perjury. If convicted on all counts, Brave would face a 31-to-64-year prison sentence.

According to Formella, Brave tried to hide the fact his spending was connected to his affairs by falsifying one receipt to remove the identity of a female companion, and by submitting numerous false justifications for reimbursement. They included attending conferences and meetings that he did not attend or did not occur, or for organizations that did not exist. 

Formella said that county officials became suspicious about Brave’s spending and alerted the state in April. Once the Attorney General’s Office began to investigate, Brave lied to investigators and a grand jury, Formella said.

The first perjury charge involved a female employee who traveled with Brave to Florida. The woman told investigators she did not stay in the same hotel room as Brave. Instead, she claimed, she stayed with family.

The woman later admitted to the grand jury that she did stay in the same hotel room as Brave. But the sheriff is alleged to have repeated her earlier version of events.

The second perjury charge concerned allegations that Brave stated he attended events for a fictitious law enforcement organization. 

The third perjury charge related to a trip Brave took to Maryland. Brave told the grand jury he was scheduled to meet with Pappas, but that the congressman had to cancel the meeting and gave Brave a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol as an apology. 

“Records from the congressman’s office indicate that no such meeting was ever scheduled, and no such gift of a flag as an apology ever took place. Rather, based on investigation, Sheriff Brave is alleged to have actually met a paramour who lived in the area,” Formella said.

The fourth and fifth perjury charges concerned a dinner cruise and hotel stay for Brave in Boston. He told the grand jury he purchased the tickets in advance so he and a male deputy could attend a charity fundraiser. But the investigation found Brave bought the tickets on the same day as the cruise for himself and another paramour to attend the event together – which was on the paramour’s birthday.  

Brave is further alleged to have alternatively claimed in his testimony that he did not remember the trip, that no one stayed with him at his hotel, and that he did not recall if his paramour spent the night with him. After hotel surveillance video showed he was lying, Brave then admitted the paramour spent the night with him at the hotel for romantic and sexual purposes, according to Formella.

Brave is still the head of the Strafford County Sheriff’s Department. Formella said his office does not have the legal ability to remove Brave from office.

“There’s a process to remove him, but that will be up to county officials,” Formella said.

County Administrator Ray Bower did not respond to a request for comment. 

Brave, a Democrat, became the state’s first elected Black sheriff in 2020. During his campaign, he aligned himself with the Black Lives Matter movement, promising to get police officers out of schools. However, he contracted with a local school department to have a deputy assigned to schools once elected.

Brave has been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, and he still has some powerful political allies. He is represented by the influential and well-connected Democratic law firm of Shaheen and Gordon — the “Shaheen” being Billy Shaheen, husband of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

In July, when news of the investigation broke, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington continued to list Brave on the endorsements page of her Warmington for Governor website.

After Brave’s arrest, his name was removed from the list of endorsements.

New Hampshire GOP state chair Chris Ager released a statement after Brave’s arrest.

“Sheriff Brave’s corrupt acts are yet another example of Democrats’ brazen lack of consideration for the communities they serve,” said Ager

“While hard-working Granite Staters struggle to make ends meet, Democrat Sheriff Mark Brave thought it was okay to defraud taxpayers for his personal gain, and then lie about it under oath.”

“Contrary to what Brave clearly believes, Democrats are not above the law.”